Chelsea Garden highlights flood resilience

With the increase in flooding in recent years it was encouraging to see one garden at this year’s (2024) RHS Chelsea Flower Show aimed at showing homeowners that their gardens can be both beautiful and resilient to flooding.

“Flood Re: The Flood Resilient Garden” (Silver) designed by Naomi Slade and Ed Barsley, incorporated sustainable drainage systems, native flood-tolerant plant species and innovative water management techniques. The design, aimed to inspire and educate homeowners about the critical role their garden can play in flood defence, enabled Chelsea Show visitors to experience first-hand how the central swale becomes a lively stream, channelling rainwater into a feature pond where it can gradually soak away with large water tanks doubling as ornamental ponds which store water for later use

The ground-breaking display, intentionally flooded to demonstrate its unique capabilities, illustrating how the garden adapts to changing water levels.

TV presenter Laura Tobin unveils Flood Re’s garden: Image credit: Andrea Jones

Leading climate and weather expert Laura Tobin, (pictured above) was on hand to discuss the garden’s role in mitigating flood risks. She commented that the Flood Resilient Garden shows that adapting to climate change can still be beautiful and homeowners don’t have to give up having a lovely garden to work hard against extreme weather: “It’s about blending smart, sustainable choices with thoughtful design to protect our homes and communities,” she said.

Flood Re’s research shows that only 5% of people living in areas at high risk of flooding could correctly identify their flood risk and that despite spending hundreds on their gardens in the past year, they are not taking crucial steps they need to protect their homes and gardens from flooding.

Image credit: Andrea Jones

Flood Re CEO Andy Bord, said: “Gardens bring joy to so many of us but they also provide an important first line of defence to flooding. With this garden we’re hoping to inspire more people to think about their flood risk and get smart with their spending by considering the plants and garden features that will both endure a flood and could also help reduce the physical destruction and psychological distress when a flood strikes. If flood resilient features and water storage capacity were to become a feature of most gardens in a neighbourhood, the positive combined effect would be enormous!”

Ed Barsley of the Environmental Design Studio points out that with the increase of extreme weather events, heavy rainfall and flooding as well as drought and even wildfires, many people are anxious. Gardens are hugely powerful tools and the Flood Re garden sends a positive message of agency and hope.

After the Show the garden is being sent to a permanent home at Howbery Business Park, allowing the public to explore its features and learn about flood resilience year-round.

For tips on planting to make your garden more flood resilient visit: